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The chance to wet a line, set a hook and drop fresh filets into Crisco Bay is one both handily and affordably available to Mississippi residents essentially everywhere statewide.

According to the state department of wildlife, fisheries and parks, Mississippi his home to 119 public lakes and 123,000 miles of rivers and streams. These combine to offer nearly a quarter million acres of freshwater access. These waters are navigable with a variety of floating craft, and bank access for those who prefer to keep solid ground beneath their feet is rarely hard to come by.

These waters are an important source of income for our state. Anglers spend around $240 million per year directly in Mississippi, and produce a total economic impact of nearly $1.5 billion. That said, the resource is accessible to our individual citizens very affordably. Including fees, an annual freshwater fishing license can be purchased for as little as $12 or so by residents. Fishermen at some state lakes, such as Lake Lamar Bruce, are asked to pay a few dollars per day for lake access, and annual state lake permits can be picked up for around $30 per year. These fees are used by state wildlife officials to maintain the quality of the fisheries under their care, a job they tale very seriously.

A 2011 survey of Mississippi anglers revealed the following:

• 651,000 licensed anglers that year included 57,500 non-residents

• 94 percent of licensed anglers focused on freshwater

• 72 percent of resident anglers live in rural areas

• 44 percent of licensed anglers were female

• Factors including cleanliness, safety and proximity to home had the most impact on anglers’ choices of fishing destinations

Public management of public waters helped produce the current state record largemouth bass, caught on the last day of 1992 by Anthony Denny at Natchez State Park Lake. It weighed in at 18.15 pounds.

A scientific art

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks manages 18 state park lakes. These span 3,133 acres across 17 state parks. Here, fish populations are sampled by fisheries biologists operating from written fisheries management plans custom built for each location. At these sites, management practices include sampling, stocking, liming and fertilization and the establishment of fish harvest regulations.

Another 20 bodies of water in Mississippi owned by counties, cities or private groups are enrolled in the MDWFP Community Fishing Assistance Program. This maintains these 411 acres in 18 locations for public use as well. The goal of the Community Fishing Assistance Program is to enhance the management and development of these lakes and ponds, typically in urban settings, so local residents, especially youth, will be able to experience the joys of fishing close to home.

Communities, cities, counties and other sponsors take part in this program through a cooperative agreement with the MDWFP. In these lakes, state wildlife officials provide technical advice regarding fish harvest regulations, aquatic plant control, management recommendations and fish for stocking free of charge. The state also provides a management plan developed through periodic on-site sampling, and it provides signs recognizing every entity participating in developing the water, along with a listing of the local regulations. In return, the lake’s owner maintains the grounds around the fishing site and follows the state’s recommendations on lake management.

For more information about public fishing in Mississippi, or about the Community Fishing Assistance Program, contact Dennis Riecke, Fisheries Bureau CFAP Coordinator, by emailing dennis.riecke@wfp.ms.gov, or call 601-432-2207.

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